Appreciate Your Tanks – Sound Technicians

Simultaneous interpreting is team work. Our teammates include not only partners in the booth, but also sound technicians outside the booth. Because SI relies on clear audio, and it’s sound technicians who create excellent audio quality.

As a former World of Warcraft addict, I often think of sound technicians as Tanks in role playing games (RPG). For non-gamers out there, Tanks are characters that “get absolutely pummelled by enemies so their teammates don’t have to.”1 And that’s what sound technicians do for us interpreters. They do the heavy lifting. Literally. (Do you know how much a booth weighs?) They set up in the wee hours. They make sure speakers are miked up right. They solve all sorts of arcane electrical interference problems at the venue so that we and the audience get a clean feed. Technicians protect our hearing and optimize our performance.

Yes, it’s no easy feat that we can listen and speak at the same time and still make sense. But we interpreters are like Mages in RPG—weaklings with low HP. Without the protection of Tanks, we can’t do our abracadabra. Buzz, hum, hiss, and static noise alone can kill us over time. (It’s called DoT, damage over time in RPG, for all you curious souls out there.)

I’m sure those of you who are sick of RSI assignments these days know what I’m talking about.

Now that we’ve spelled out how important sound technicians are, let’s show them our appreciation more. We can start with these simple things:

  • Greet them when you arrive at the venue. Thank them and say goodbye to them before you leave.
  • Remove all things you bring to the booth when you leave, including hotel coffee cups. If you leave stuff in the booth, it’s technicians who have to dispose it for you and that’s not their job.
  • Tell everyone, including your clients, how important sound technicians are. Recommend professional ones to your clients. You’ll be doing yourself a big favour, too. When you work with great Tanks, you know you’ll be well protected and able to do your magic.

Mark Kisby, an experienced sound technician, has this to add:
“I would ask that when an interpreter makes a mistake, like transmitting on the wrong channel or not switching a mic on or off, that this is owned up to. As when it is rectified it is always said ‘Sorry a technical issue’ at which point all eyes turn to the tech… We are the Tank, but tanks have feelings too. ;-)”

by Clare Wang


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of AIIC or its regional organizations.